* President Sata not seen in public for two months
* Fired justice minister seen as potential successor
* Zambia is Africa's No. 2 copper producer after DRC
By Chris Mfula
LUSAKA, Aug 28 Zambian President Michael Sata
fired Minister of Justice Wynter Kabimba on Thursday, his
spokesman said, removing a potential rival at a time when
questions are being asked about the health of the leader of
Africa's second-largest copper producer.
Sata, 77, has not been seen in public since June 19 when
state television showed him meeting visiting Chinese Vice
President Li Yuanchao. This absence from public view has fuelled
speculation that he is suffering from serious illness.
Aides have repeatedly said he is in good health and has been
working as normal in State House in the capital Lusaka.
Sata was among a handful of presidents who did not attend a
summit of African leaders hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama
in Washington earlier this month. He also missed a meeting of
southern African leaders in neighbouring Zimbabwe two weeks ago.
Kabimba, who was also the secretary general of Sata's ruling
Patriotic Front party, was replaced by Defence Minister Edgar
Lungu, Sata's spokesman George Chellah said in a statement,
without giving a reason. Kabimba also lost the party post.
He had been involved in a battle with other senior
government officials over the presidential succession, analysts
said. He was not available to comment on his sacking.
"This is a manifestation of a power struggle. He was a
potential threat and very powerful figure," said Macdonald
Chipenzi, an analyst with Zambia's Foundation for Democratic
Process, an pro-democracy NGO.
"The greatest problem that has gripped the nation is the
president's absence and the earlier he comes out from wherever
he is, the better," Chipenzi added.
Sata suffered a heart attack in 2008 and his opponents said
he collapsed during a six-week election campaign in 2011, a
claim the president denied. The next election is due in 2016.
If a Zambian president dies or steps down, the cabinet would
name an acting leader and there would be an election within 90
days. Vice President Guy Scott is not eligible to take over
because his parents were not born in Zambia.
(Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Pascal Fletcher)